The aim of this study was to investigate, from the university faculty members' voice, the training needs to provide an inclusive educational response to the needs of students with disability. Twenty academic members from two Spanish universities participated in this study.
Globally, there is a move towards a broader university and towards the access of collectives that were not traditionally represented, as is the case of students with disabilities (Thomas, 2016). However, it not is enough to guarantee admission to higher education. In recent years, relevant authors claim that policies are needed to ensure permanence and success (Wilson et al., 2016). In fact, although the number of enrolled students with disabilities is increasing, the permanence data do not. In addition, the risk of dropout for these students is much higher than for the rest.
Such policies are particularly relevant when considering that getting a degree for people with disabilities can improve access to labour market. Higher education has been recognized in various investigations as an opportunity for these students to improve their quality of life (Papay & Griffin, 2013).
As in other previous educational stages, inclusion in the university is necessary because it promotes a high quality education for all the students (Messiou et al., 2016). The universities are gradually committing more to inclusion processes, and the diversity of the students is challenging the universities' way of working. However, in spite of the achievements, there is still a long way to go. There are significant barriers in the university trajectories of students with disabilities. In the studies, students with disabilities identify the faculty as the main barrier, with regard to their negative attitudes and lack of training to meet the students’ educational needs (Moswela & Mukhopadhyay, 2011). As Thomas and May (2010) conclude, in many cases the syllabuses are rigid and non-inclusive, and can exclude certain students.
On another hand, various works have underlined that the professor’s knowledge, attitudes, and good will to offer reasonable academic modifications and accommodations are critical factors for the success of students with disabilities.
In investigations of the faculty, their limited experience, minimal training in working with students with disabilities and in inclusive instructional practices are observed (Black, Weinberg, & Brodwin, 2014). However, in various works, most faculty express concern about carrying out classroom accommodations and considering teaching adaptations, but they do not know how to do this (Jensen, McCrary, Krampe, & Cooper, 2004).
In Spain, as in most countries, faculty training is voluntary and free, and pedagogical training is not required to be able to teach. In addition, courses on disability and inclusive education are rare in the training agendas of the universities. Nevertheless, some training programs have been developed.
The training projects developed agree that when the faculty is trained in disability, inclusion and universal design for learning, this has a positive impact on students with or without disability (Cunningham, 2013). In various studies, it is concluded that the training received produced better outcomes in knowledge and sensitivity toward students with disabilities and also improved the faculty's attitudes (Davies, Schelly, Davies, & Spooner, 2013). Hence, training in disability and inclusive practices is necessary and advisable.
Regarding the training contents, the faculty thinks it is important for them to know their legal obligations, techniques to design the syllabus, adequate accommodations for students in the classroom, information about available resources for students with disabilities, effective instructional practices, knowledge of the characteristics of a disability or information on how to access the services for students with disabilities (Gelbar et al., 2015).
Black, R. D., Weinberg, L. A., & Brodwin, M. G. (2014). Universal design for instruction and learning: a pilot study of faculty instructional methods and attitudes related to students with disabilities in higher education. Exceptionality Education International, 24(1), 48–64. Cunningham, S. (2013). Teaching a diverse student body – a proposed tool for lecturers to self-evaluate their approach to inclusive teaching. Practice and Evidence of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 8(1), 3–27. Davies, P.L., Schelly, C.L., & Spooner, C.L. (2013). Measuring the effectiveness of Universal Design for Learning intervention in postsecondary education. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 26(3), 195–220. Gelbar, N. W., Madaus, J. W., Lombardi, A., Faggella-Luby, M., & Dukes, L. (2015). College students with physical disabilities: common on campus, uncommon in the literature. Physical Disabilities: Education and Related Services, 34(2), 14-31. Jensen, J. M, McCrary, N., Krampe, K., & Cooper, J. (2004). Trying to do the right thing: faculty attitudes toward accommodating students with learning disabilities. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 17(2), 81–90. Messiou, K., Ainscow, M., Echeita, G., Goldrick, S., Hope, M., Paes, I., Sandoval, M., Simon, C., & Vitorino, T. (2016). Learning from differences: a strategy for teacher development in respect to student diversity. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 27(1), 45–61. Moswela, E., & Mukhopadhyay, S. (2011). Asking for too much? The voices of students with disabilities in Botswana. Disability & Society, 26(3), 307–319. Papay, C., & Griffin, M. (2013). Developing inclusive college opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 38(2), 110–116. Thomas, L., & May, H. (2010). Inclusive learning and higher education. York: Higher Education Academy. Avaliable from: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/inclusivelearningandteaching_finalreport.pdf. Thomas, L. (2016). Developing inclusive learning to improve the engagement, belonging, retention, and success of students from diverse groups. In M. Shah, A. Bennett, & E. Southgate (Eds.), Widening higher education participation. A global perspective (pp. 135–159). Oxford: Elsevier. Wilson, K. L., Murphy, K. A., Pearson, A. G. Wallace, B. M., Reher, V. G. S., & Buys, N. (2016). Understanding the early transition needs of diverse commencing university students in a health faculty: informing effective intervention practices. Studies in Higher Education, 41(6), 1023–1040.
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